A few weeks ago, I met a guy, and we started a friendship. We're still getting to know each other, but as time passes I have more and more reasons to believe he has different interests than I (a heterosexual guy) do, though we met in person only twice, and he never told this explicitly.

To be clear: I like him as a person, I'd have absolutely zero problem with it if he is LGBT, and I already made light, indirect hints to this. Still, it'd be good to know if that's indeed the case for sure - hell, I myself act jokingly as if I am gay rarely with close friends - though I've never done this around this friend yet and he hasn't met the friends.

I don't want to treat him differently. But if he's homosexual, and he didn't "come out" to me yet, there are topics to avoid, like relationships... (he's not in one).

Of course, I could just ask "hey, I'm not sure about your sexuality, are you gay?", but I'm afraid of him finding this offensive/uncomfortable if he isn't; and if he is, this leaves no room if he doesn't want to tell.

How, if, could I ask him make him explicitly say if he's homosexual, without risking our new friendship? Should I even ask him at all? Are there any alternative ways of finding an answer?

(Update a few years later: I never asked (as per answers), but he was definetly LGBT. In retrospect he obviously behaved somewhat flirtatiously with me, and I should've realized. Actually, the real question I should've asked is how to make it clear I'm not open to same-gender relationships without being awkward in case I was wrong about his sexuality. But the answers address this as well to some extent.)

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    I'm curious as to what these "reasons" are. Is it possible you're just stereotyping?
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 14:41
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    What is your goal? To make clear that you are not open to a homosexual relationship? Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 17:27
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    This looks like an XY problem. How is an answer to this question supposed to actually help you? Even if one the answers were magical words making him tell you what you want without damaging your friendship, how would finding out about his sexual orientation help you? Just because he is a friend of yours doesn't mean that if he was homosexual he would be into you. Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 12:19
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    @AnneDaunted I think finding out someones sexual orientation at least has some value. As you become better friends with someone it is quite normal to become interested in personal details about them.
    – Jesse
    Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 17:06
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    @AnneDaunted I think that was only a part of it
    – Jesse
    Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 17:50

13 Answers 13


A person's sexuality is a very personal thing. Many people will take years to get to the point where they are comfortable to talk to their family and friends about their sexuality. Many people aren't even sure what their preference is.

As such, you cannot assume that this person is comfortable talking to you about their sexuality. They may not be ready to talk about it to anyone, let alone someone that they've only met twice, and they may not have figured out what their sexual identity is. This is an incredibly private, personal matter.

You don't need to know their sexual preference in order to be their friend. Only the most comfortable, close friends may get to the point where they discuss sexuality with eachother. I have had one or two friends like this in my lifetime. Friends usually** don't participate in sexual activities and there is no real need to know, unless they decide to confide in you.

A good friend allows you to be comfortable and be yourself. I want to be around people who aren't going to judge me on my sexual preferences, or treat me differently because of them. (Or on any other preferences in general). I don't want to be put in uncomfortable situations by being encouraged to talk about things I'm not ready to talk about. A good friend doesn't care about my sexual preferences, they care about me as a human being.

Since you don't know how comfortable your friend is about their sexuality, don't force them to talk about it. Accept them for who they are and let them be themselves without feeling the need to force the situation. If they are comfortable, they will bring up the topic themselves in time. Eventually, maybe, one day they may feel comfortable enough to confide in you. But you can't expect that to happen any time soon, or ever. Just be a good friend.

(Additional note: If you're concerned about their interest in you, remember that even if he's gay, that doesn't mean he'll be interested in you in particular. There are other ways of establishing if he's interested and navigating that particular minefield. Asking "Are you gay?" directly isn't an appropriate solution to this problem at all.)

** Assuming the usual platonic-type friendships. There are other "friendships" that I'm not including here.


How, if, could I ask him make him explicitly say if he's homosexual, without risking our fresh friendship?

You really can't. You could simply ask, but you're running the risk of alienating a friend by doing it. If he's gay and "out" you'll find that out by simply getting to know him better. If he's gay and "closeted" you may never find out, but he will be more likely to come out to you if you seem like you're not homophobic.

I'm pansexual, meaning that I date people regardless of gender or lack there of. In my day to day life most people read me as hetero. The last person I'm likely to talk to about my sexuality is someone who appears uncomfortable about those things. I'm really very open with my close friends, but if I meet someone and they strike me as possibly phobic I'm pretty likely to wait until I know how that information will be received. Not really "closeted" I just don't feel the need to fight with every homophobe I run into, as tempting as that might be at times.

Should I even ask him at all?

I would encourage you to really examine your motives here... Why does it matter to you? Take a step back and take a hard look at why you want to know.

If you just want your new friend to be comfortable enough to talk with you about such personal matters, that's one thing. If you intend to treat them differently because of their sexuality that's something else.

Judging by the tone of your question, I would recommend not asking until you're sure you won't be tempted to treat him differently.

Are there any alternative ways for finding an answer?

Yes, there are. Patience is a virtue. If your friend is gay and they feel comfortable talking with you about it, they probably will at some point. For that to happen, just be a good friend and don't act like a homophobe.

I tend to feel much more comfortable being open with people who come across as allies (people who may, or may not, be LGBT+ but support LGBT+ rights.) Basically it's easier to bring it up with people who I'm sure aren't going to be rude about it.

If you absolutely must know... And your motives aren't great, and you can't be patient... Just ask. It's better to ask than to drop hints and be weird about it. But be aware that you're being a bit blunt and possibly rude and you're likely to alienate your friend whether they're LGBT+ or not.

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    Thanks. Your first-hand point-of-view is really helpful. My motives... you're right, it's probably just me want to comfort myself in a situation I never encountered yet. I'm not sure if he looks at me as a friend or a potential partner. I have no problem with the latter, but I'd hint him to the other option - to avoid a bigger disappointment later?... But after all, I don't really have to ask him, that's true.
    – Neinstein
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 16:07

Based on the comments, the implicit question is very different from the explicit one.

Explicit: How do I ask my new friend if they are gay? - You don't. If they want you to know they will tell you.

Implicit: How do I ask my new friend if he thinks we are casually dating? - One way would be to make your own preferences known to him. See a girl you like? Tell him you like her. Have/had a girlfriend? Mention them in casual conversation (e.g. "I used to have this girlfriend who got me into this TV show..."). As long as he is aware that you are not interested in a romantic relationship with him it won't matter whether or not he is interested in you, he will likely get the message if he is.

There is still the possibility that he thinks you may be bisexual or still interested in a homosexual relationship with this approach, but as long as you aren't showing any romantic or sexual interest in him it is highly unlikely to be an issue.

There is another option of course, just straight-up ask if he thinks you are dating. This will be awkward as hell but you will get your answer one way or the other and is more likely to end up as a humorous anecdote than a ruined friendship. If you do try this approach though I would focus on the dating aspect rather than his sexual preferences as that is unlikely to end well.


Ask about dating. Talk about your own sexual interests and history (somewhat indirectly) to give your friend an easy opportunity to share.

  • Talk about someone you're interested in and ask if he's interested in anyone.
  • Tell a story about a past girlfriend, and ask if he's had a similar experience.
  • Mention a celebrity you find attractive and see if he chimes in.
  • Offer to set him up on a date with someone you know (be prepared follow through!).

At the same time, if you think he might be uncomfortable sharing that he is gay fearing a poor reaction from you, find ways to indicate that you are an ally (if you are) - casually mention other LGBTQ+ friendships, bring up your stance on politics that affect the LGBTQ+ community, comment positively about a celebrity, etc. Make sure that you (a) are a safe friend for such a disclosure and (b) that you conversation demonstrate that you are a safe friend for such a disclosure.

These are ways to give him a friendly opening to disclose his sexuality if he is comfortable with sharing it with you. If your friend seems evasive or reluctant to answer, to be a good friend to him you should respect his privacy.

How, if, could I make him explicitly say if he's homosexual

This is the wrong attitude. "Making" someone disclose something they wish to keep private is interrogation, not friendship. Friendship is creating a trusting relationship with open communication and low judgment so they feel safe sharing.


If it doesn't matter, it shouldn't matter. Meaning, if you like this person and want to be friends with him, just let the friendship develop as it would with anyone new in your life.

I'm not clear on what "...hell, I myself act jokingly as a gay rarely with close friends…" means, but quite honestly, it doesn't sound good.

This sounds like a really big issue for you - whether a person you like and are getting be friends with is gay. He may be, he may not be, but the fact that you need to know now before the friendship goes any further would be a red flag for me if I were the other guy.

Your new friend may be asking himself some questions about you - since you have "made light, indirect hints" as to his sexuality and how you feel about it. His questions may not be about your sexuality but why you are so obsessed with his.


Why would you act gay sometimes? Do you consider it funny? Do you hang with people that find it funny? I know many people do find that funny, but the handful of homosexuals I know (of both genders) do not appreciate it if it isn't done by a known homosexual, and find it demeaning because it appeals to alienation.

It is a similar dynamic as to why black comedians can use racist language describing blacks and black culture without offending most blacks, but other races cannot. A person from a group making jokes almost certainly bears no phobia or hate of their group, but for people outside the group, phobia or hatred is perceived to be the most likely reason a person is using pejorative language, demeaning stereotypes or laughing at behavioral or cultural peculiarities of the group.

To answer your question,

Don't ask. If you are worried about how to handle a romantic interest in yourself by your new friend, I'd suggest talking about yourself when the opportunity arises: Your female crush in school, or female celebrity you consider attractive, or, when talking about the future, your hope to someday find a girl to marry, and become a father.

You don't have to know his sexual orientation if he knows yours. The handful of homosexuals I know do not try to seduce known heterosexuals, they don't want to ruin their friendships. And like heterosexuals, nearly all homosexuals want sex with mutual desire: Nearly all persons would rather have sex with people that want to have sex with us, not somebody repelled by the thought.

  • I mostly agree, but I’d say that a lot of people don’t appreciate stereotypes even when they’re perpetuated by the targets of those stereotypes. It’s part of why people were worried about Titus from Kimmy Schmidt possibly reinforcing stereotypes of gay people (even though his name really is Titus and he really is gay), and part of why some black comedians have expressed discomfort with stereotyped acts (even, sometimes, their own). It’s also why many people (Jewish and otherwise) were so outraged with Larry David’s SNL Jewish stereotype skit, despite his being ethnically Jewish.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 4:36
  • That is, some people are concerned about the possibility of keeping harmful or inaccurate stereotypes alive, not just whether a joke indicates animosity or not....
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 4:38
  • @Obie2.0 They are probably right to do so, but "a lot" is nowhere near the majority in most groups. The Italians embrace derogatory slang about themselves, among themselves. Blacks do. Irish do. Even Hispanics do. Most gays do, or at least tolerate it. Those are all examples of people I personally know, and I imagine the same is true for the majority of stereotyped groups. Again, I would prefer NONE of them did, but that the majority do is a fact of life.
    – Amadeus
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 4:53
  • Talking about past girlfriends/female crushes/female celebrities leaves some ambiguity over whether he's bisexual (or pansexual, or omnisexual, or...). I know the he's attracted to women, therefore he's heterosexual thinking is backed up the Power of Statistics, but still attraction to women =/= lack of attraction to men. I'm just not sure how to tactfully convey the latter.
    – Dragomok
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 20:28
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    @Dragomok Agreed. But if you are talking about yourself and you are straight, the fact that all your partners and crushes are all one gender will usually tell a new friend all they need to know about your sexuality, regardless of theirs. If a homosexual invitation ensues anyway and that worries someone, I'd say deal with that worry by practicing declining a homosexual invitation in the same polite way they'd decline a heterosexual invitation. That would be my own instinctive reaction anyway.
    – Amadeus
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 22:58

Should I even ask him at all?


As many other answers suggested, just make him feel accepted. Let's assume he is actually gay: you don't know how he lives his sexuality, if he embraces it or if, on the other end of the spectrum, if he isn't even aware of it.

I had more than one friend that gave me the very strong feeling of being homosexual. It took years for them to accept it and to talk about it. I couldn't just go there and say "hey, you know what, I really think you're gay, are you?". All I could do is give them hints that I supported the whole LGBT+ community (well, I'm actually part of it which quite eased the process) and then follow the flow of the conversation. That is... I was just being their friend.

So, if you really want to accelerate the process that brings him to disclose his sexuality to you, you can drop here and there positive comments about LGBT+ community. Something brief and easy, like "Look, this shop has a rainbow flag on the door, nice of them to show support to the LGBT community" and move on.

With a positive attitude towards LGBT+ folks, you create an accepting atmosphere around him. The following step, that is him talking about his sexual life, is up to him alone: he may decide to do it tomorrow or in ten years and it's okay either way.

Note: often, "I have plenty of gay friends" or "I act as a gay person with my friends" do not come across as positive comments; rather, they feel like the other person is saying "Look at me, I'm so open-minded and accepting, I like gay people as if they were normal, now give me a medal for it". Sexuality should just not matter. Instead of saying "My friend Mark is gay", say "Oh I really like this song! Mark's boyfriend knows how to play it on piano, he does a very beautiful cover of it".


It's so strange to me that this seems to be such a complicated thing with so many answers and comments.

Just say this:

Hey. I'm curious about something—I hope I'm not overstepping my boundaries. Are you gay?

I don't know why it seems to be such a huge deal to everyone here, but I've never met any gay person who'd seriously be offended by this. Making it such a big deal would be more off-putting than anything, which I feel like all of the answers here are doing.

If you guys are friends, and you recognize being gay as not a big deal, then treat it like not a big deal. You're curious, so ask.

The thing that I'd really suggest is to find the most true and genuine reasons why you're asking this question. You don't have to tell us, or anyone, but you need to figure this out for yourself.

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    " but I've never met any gay person who'd seriously be offended by this." Nor have I. Heteros, however... I've met a good number (men and women!) who would punch someone in the face for this question, even phrased nicely...
    – Kendra
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 19:08
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    Depending on the persons comfort level with their orientation and with the friendship this could go either way. If a new friend directly asked me if I was gay, I'd immediately want to know "Why are you asking?" If I know you're straight, why do you feel the need to expose that part of my life at your wishes instead of at my own discretion/comfort? It'd put me on edge with the friendship. Why does this person who won't have romantic interest in me care what my orientation is? But I admit, this is the best way to ask if one really must. No beating around the bush.
    – Jess K.
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 19:15
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    But why should sexuality be an important fact for a friend to know. I mean given a situation it could be relevant (i'm going to hook you up with a girl or guy) but in the day to day it should not. "Lets go to out for tacos, a game, concert/fix X stuff", oh no..you are homo/hetero. See the irrelevance in most situations between friends? Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 17:08
  • @SalvadorRuizGuevara It isn't an important fact—but neither is your friend's favorite color, their most watched movie, or what they think about politically. That's my point: It's not a big deal, so if you're curious, just ask (as you would with any other non-important thing). Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 13:19
  • @AmagicalFishy I think that sexual identity is so much more ingrained and personal than favorite colors or movies. It is a massive part of a person's identity and the sad reality of today is that many many people are still very judgemental and unaccepting of LGBT people. It is a big risk for them to expose an incredibly personal part of themselves to the critique and judgement of the world. Would you admit your favourite colour or movie was one that others had openly ridiculed previously? Maybe you would, but how much more painful would that be if it was ingrained as part of your identity?
    – user6818
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 20:46

You can ask about their relationship, much as you would ask that with any other friend:

"So, do you have a partner, a girlfriend or a boyfriend?"

By explicitly not presuming which they have, or what term (including gender-neutral) they tend to use, you yourself open a space for them to answer how they like. You also imply you are comfortable with these and open up the area as being 'safe', without coming across as having an inappropriate reason to ask.

In this way, you don't ask their sexuality, but you make clear you aren't presuming their choice. If they were to be curious, you have a host of reasons to explain why you asked, because this is common social inquiry.

  • "Oh, I feel a bit awkward asking how you are and not even knowing if I should ask how any partner you might have, is. I don't want to feel like I'm being rude or indifferent. So I asked"
  • "Just curious, you know?"
  • "I don't want to accidentally ask about a girlfriend if it's actually a wife or husband in your life, or something, or have it not being a safe thing to ask about. It's not impossible:) and I'd feel an idiot for getting something that basic wrong!'
  • "Well, you know I have a girlfriend, I'm interested to know if someone's lurking in the background in your life too"
  • "Well, maybe they would want to come over or go out as a group/have some friends along"
  • "You know about me /you know about (name) - I was wondering what's up in your life too"

Be aware they may not answer in a way that answers your actual question (they may not have a partner right now, or may be bi or asexual, or may say "it's complicated!" or whatever).

If you need to ask more directly, then its always a useful technique to self disclose: "Well, you know I'm straight and (seeing NAME / not seeing anyone (since WHEN/since LASTPARTNERSNAME). I wondered about you." (Mentioning 'straight' like this, also implies you're open to other alternatives in his answer and not assuming.) At the least he will know where you stand, even if you don't know the details of where he stands. At best he'll also reply in kind.

Whatever he says, follow up on it with interest and at least some dialog. (If he has a bf or something, "I didn't know that! Was it easy? Did you always know? Do you want me to keep it to myself or does everyone know?") That way its clear there is no awkward silence and they are left feeling more sure you accept them as a friend, so the friendship is strengthened even as they learn where you are at.


For your question

Should I even ask him at all?

I'd answer no. Why should you? Why do you feel the need to? As long as we're talking about a friend, or a relative, or an acquaintance, his/her sexual horientation to me is as useful as a colander to pick up water.

For your other question

Are there any alternative ways for finding an answer?

Time. If he/she wants, he/she will explicitly or indirectly reveal it, sooner or later. And even then, it will be useless to know, in a friendship.

Are you doing this to prevent "potential future awkward situations" e.g. commenting on a girl when he likes boys, instead? He will tell you, if needed.

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    re "'Why should you? Why do you feel the need to?" : what if the friend has mistakenly took the meet ups as light dates ? How to handle the case and make clear the relation would stay at friendship ?
    – Tensibai
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 14:01
  • @Tensibai, this is off-topic here imo, and regardless of the sexual horientation. When I want to date a girl, I ask her out; I'm not expecting her to do that work for me and tell me "Hey, do you like me?". After I ask, she can reply accordingly. Here, it's the same. Should some sort of interest from his friend be there, he will ask.
    – Markino
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 14:05
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    And you never been sad after a few meet ups and then asking her to discover she's not sharing your sexual orientation at all and that you shouldn't have expected it ? This question makes me think the OP is worried about hurting his friend if that happens by letting him think unintentionally he may be interested.
    – Tensibai
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 14:15
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    @Tensibai no, never been sad about that. There's nothing to be sad about asking a girl out. Whether she says "no" because she doesn't like me specifically or because she oriented towards other girls rather than boys is irrelevant: it's a "no", that's all that matters. In the situation you're speculating, it all boils down to managing rejection from a crush (aka the dreaded "friendzoning"), regardless of his/her reasons to reject you. That's why I think it's off-topic and useless here.
    – Markino
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 14:18
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    I'm not taking it easy. I'm also the super-sensitive kind of guy who takes a lot of time to go through the hardship of rejection. Just, it doesn't help me to know that the girl rejected me because he likes another guy, or she likes girls, or she wants to become a nun. It's a "no" to me, I have to deal with the uber-bad feeling of being rejected, not with the "why". But this is completely off-topic as per what the question's author is asking.
    – Markino
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 14:33

So a bunch answers here already cover the actual question rather well. I'd just like to add a note on what your problem really is.

You're not sure about your friends' interests in your relationship.

For that problem you don't actually need to know his own sexuality. All you need to do is make it clear what your interests are and see if he's okay with that.

Make it obvious that you are heterosexual and not interested in men. You can do this by talking about a potential future girlfriend you would want or might have.

That way there won't be anything ambiguous about your interests.

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    After a bit of thought, talking about potential future girlfriend is a better tactic than talking about past girlfriend(s) - you won't leave enough ambiguity that you might be bi/poly/omni/whathaveyou, since a bisexual person would either talk about boyfriends/girlfriends or use a gender-neutral language.
    – Dragomok
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 20:19

One tactic I sometimes use with people I am only getting to know is to make some tangential statement about a hypothetical current or future partner:

Oh, I see you really get deeply into [some game or hobby], when you start up with a girlfriend (or boyfriend) you'll have to introduce them gradually so they get a chance to learn how to enjoy it before trying to play at your level of intensity.

And that's it. The conversation goes along. The opening is there for them to share if they want to, and avoid if they would prefer.

And yes, I know it's generally none of my business, but basic human curiosity is tough to squelch.

And by the way, the OP's statement

I myself act jokingly as if I am gay rarely with close friends

makes me wonder if he is either in denial about being a bigot or starting to question his own sexuality.


Well, asking somebody's sexuality is really problematic most often. I'm from Russia and here this is either very simple or quite complex depending on the person. The easy way is this: you firstly think whether you really want to know their sexuality or not, if you do then you think of a way to ask them. Most often people here ask questions like, "What do you think of gays or lesbians" to see the person's reaction. Most often they open up and tell you the truth.

Sometimes people ask, "What do you think about homosexual relationship" whereupon they will probably tell you the truth too.

People are quite friendly with neutral questions. It's better not ask someone directly as it may offend them. Gay people are somewhat outcasts here in Russia and people treat them badly so even if he is one he might lie if asked straightforward but he might slip out the truth in discussion about homosexuality.

Still, often, it's best to avoid such questions after all and just leave the person along. They'll tell you eventually some day.

Oh, one more thing, even if you hate or dislike gay people it's better not to show or tell them this since it might offend them much and you may lose a friend. Surely this depends on what your personal thoughts are.

Edit: If he drinks then you might take him out for a drink and then start this discussion after a few takes. While drunk he would probably be easier to talk to and the topic will most probably flow in a friendly way.

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    Good advice, but... If he drinks then you might take him out for a drink and then start this discussion after a few takes. Getting people drunk to get information from them seems unethical.
    – Dragomok
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 20:14
  • @Dragomok Hmm, strange, everyone does it. Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 4:05
  • You're not doing much to dispel Russian stereotypes here... ;) I get what you're saying - people open up after a few drinks, but - as a teetotaller - encouraging somebody to ingest a substance that will encourage them to spill information that they wouldn't normally disclose... sounds a bit like some truth serum story.
    – Dragomok
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 19:17

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